Pueblo West primed for title defense
For Pueblo West basketball, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Despite a No. 1 seed, the Cyclones were perhaps a tad underestimated heading into the 4A state tournament last year, when they ran the table to the program’s first state title. But this winter, the team is very much on everyone’s radar, as they’ve been atop the Denver Post Power Rankings all season long while also carrying the weight of an entire community banking on a repeat.
Vastly changed expectations, but so far, the same results: The skilled Cyclones (7-0) remain undefeated heading into the Rampart Tournament starting on Jan. 5, despite early-season adversity brought about by an array of injuries.
“It’s very different than last year, because last year we flew under the radar, and we knew what we had but I don’t know if anybody else quite did,” Pueblo West coach Bob Tyler said. “We just kept climbing and climbing, but this year we’ve been put at No. 1 right off the bat and it seems like every day we’re just trying to survive.”
Star senior guard David Simental missed four games and played limited minutes in others, but should be healthy coming out of the holiday break, but the Cyclones have had plenty of other guys step up. Most notably, the play of junior guards Nieyeme Smyer-Williams and Pierre Taylor give off the early impression that this year’s team is considerably more dangerous than last year’s squad.
“Pierre’s putting up about 20 points and five rebounds a game and has just been playing out of this world,” Tyler said, “while Nieyeme has taken on that point guard role since David’s been sidelined, and he’s helped us in a lot of ways other than what shows on the stat sheet.”
Simental, though, remains the epitome of the team’s blue-collar, determined nature. He has four Division II offers but is holding out for a Division I opportunity to come along. He’s the best college prospect on a team with many ballers who are capable of competing at the next level, but none of them besides Simental have any offers yet.
“It’s going to be really hard for David to have as great of a season as he had last year, because he has a lot more talent surrounding him right now — there’s just a limited number of shots for our players to take,” Tyler said. “But he really wants to go Division I, and he’s weighed his odds — he doesn’t know if he wants to go a year or two at junior college and then see if he can make the jump, or what exactly he’s going to do, he just knows what his mind-set is.”